Friday, May 27, 2016

The Lullaby of Broadway

CHINA DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery
by Joe Cosentino

My parents took me to my first Broadway show when I was six years old. I still remember it vividly. The gorgeous historic theatre’s crimson carpeting and seats. The intricate gold molding, and faded but still glorious tapestries of cavorting Greek gods and goddesses on the walls and ceilings. And the spacious box seats, gigantic crystal chandelier, and endless balcony. When the velvet proscenium curtain rose, I was mesmerized by the talented actors onstage wearing gorgeous costumes and performing in front of lifelike sets. They brought this transfixed child into their captivating world and I didn’t want to leave it.

The next morning my sister and I took our parents old clothes and put on a show—literally in a neighbor’s garage. So it was no surprise to anyone when I majored in Theatre in college and became a professional actor working on stage opposite stars like Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Nathan Lane (The Roar of the Greasepaint), Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T Industrial), and on film and television opposite stars like Holland Taylor (My Mother Was Never a Kid ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (NBC’s Another World), David Paymer (Ruffles Potato Chips commercial), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). One of my jobs was playing Ross (I mean Ross not Hercule) Poirot in a murder mystery dinner theatre show, therefore combining my love of mysteries and theatre.

So in the next Jana Lane mystery, CHINA DOLL, America’s most famous ex-child star has had a successful comeback, won an Oscar, and has been cast in the starring role of a Broadway thriller, where she is faced with murder on stage and off. It is old home week and nepotism in action as the play is produced and written by the same producer (Stanley Rothman) and author (Katrina Wright) who produced and wrote Jana’s first Broadway play when she was five years old, Sweet Nothings. Jana’s co-star from Sweet Nothings, the aging but still gorgeous and mysterious Savannah Stevens, is co-starring in China Doll, along with Savannah’s incredibly handsome and muscular son, Peter Stevens, in his Broadway debut. Rounding out the cast are Rothman’s granddaughter Bella, Jana’s nephew Brad, and Jana’s youngest son B.J. And the play is directed by Katrina’s new and much younger husband, the studly Tony Cuccioli. Also in the cast are Sally Chen a recent Tony Award winning actress, and Tate Moonglow a transplant from Off-Broadway. Even the local detective is a Broadway musical theatre buff, and Jana’s comical old world agent, Simon Huckby, is back to watch over his favorite client.

Attractions come to the surface between Tony and Sally, Brad and Bella, Tate and Gary (B.J.’s new nanny), and even Jana and Peter.

Art imitates life as members of the production team of China Doll are murdered, personal secrets are revealed, and Jana once again uses the skills she learned as a child star to solve the crime.

I was able to use my knowledge of theatre to create the first read through, blocking rehearsal, rehearsals, and performances for the play within the novel that I call China Doll. Though China Doll is a fictitious play, I was able to place the theatre between the marquees of real shows playing at the time: Hurlyburly starring William Hurt and Christopher Walken and The Rink starring Chita Rivera and Liza Minelli. Since the book takes place in 1984, I included a great deal of history, music, and fashion from my favorite era. Layered hair, parachute pants, shoulder pads, lace gloves, leggings, and scrunchies are all there along with music like Bruce Springstein’s “Cover Me.” New York City is prominently featured in the novel with its luxury hotels, Central Park, Washington Square Park, Little Italy, and of course the theatre district. I was also able to include, the still new AIDS epidemic and the devastation it caused when ignored by our political representatives, as once again Jana sponsors a benefit for AIDS research.

Hurry, take your seat and your program. The curtain is going up on CHINA DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery!

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